Surveillance in national ports is strengthened because of health alert


In support of the control regulations decreed by the Ministry of Health (MINSA), as a precaution to avoid any outbreak of Ebola virus that is affecting several countries in West Africa, the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) has strengthened the surveillance in national ports. Furthermore, it has expanded its scope to monitor ships that approach Panamanian waters, which previously have docked in other countries.

Facing this public health emergency of international significance, Panama, as not affected country, nor close to these cases and in compliance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization has warned all institutions related to travelers and immigrants, points of entry into the country, to raise their controls.

Joining efforts is a priority for the PMA in order to make decisions, in a concerted and coordinated way, with the institutions that are related to the boarding of vessels in the various ports of the country so that the security protocol required and validated by the Ministry of Health is effectively implemented and enforced.

Through the arrival notice, the PMA has previously conducted a review of all the vessels that are about to arrive in our ports; this tool is fed by shipping agents; besides that, a circular has been sent to the shipping agencies. The circular emphasizes the importance of the accuracy of the information, which is fed into the system.

Additionally, we are also helped by the PurpleTRAC System, which allows the tracking and display of all the vessels close to territorial waters. This system allows detecting vessels that have previously visited other ports.

All staff members of the Office of Boarding and Ports Managers, at national level, have been previously trained by physicians of the Ministry of Health. The physicians have, in turn, requested their assistance to so that they become multiplying agents and spread the information that they received in seminars.

We emphasize that the MOH has implemented a number of measures. This week, the entity announced a restriction on entry into the country for passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Conakry, also for those who, in their travel schedule, have visited the aforementioned countries during the last 21 days. Moreover, epidemiologists of the MOH provide training for members of several institutions and hospitals, teaching them how to address suspected cases of the virus.

The MOH has announced that the hospital isolation ward in the area called 24 of December, in the East sector of the city, is equipped and ready for any eventuality. This isolation ward has been equipped at a cost of near one million dollars

On October 14, the Council of Ministers decided to declare the country in “state of health alert” as a preventive measure against the Ebola virus. Furthermore, the Minister of Health, Mr. Francisco Javier Terrientes reported that the Council of Ministers also approved a budget of 10 million US dollars for initial prevention of Ebola.

Mr. Jose Aranda, Deputy Director of Ports AMP and Mrs Flor Pitty, Chief of Port Operations were present at the conference.  On behalf of the MOH, Mr. Rafael Perez, Mr. Aurelio Rangel, and Mr. Israel Cedeno were also present. The National Aeronaval Service was represented by Mr. Ramón López and Mr. Guillermo Barantes.